Hosting a vegan Christmas dinner or worried about not finding suitable options when invited out? Here’s how make Christmas stress-free!
I’m hosting a vegan Christmas dinner this year – do you have any tips for how I can have it all go off smoothly? Last year, at a friend’s place, there were some rather awkward moments and I want to make this Christmas one to remember.
Being vegan has never been easier but there are still certain situations that can present us with difficulties. Christmas is a time when there’s so much food around it can be difficult to know what you can and can’t eat. I’m lucky as my mum will be cooking Christmas day and she’s mostly plant based. I know when I visit friends and family they may struggle to find me something so here are a few ideas to make your vegan Christmas run smoothly.
Invited to a party? How to help your host
If you are a guest then you will need to let the host know that you’re vegan. I find I’m pleasantly surprised when I eat at friends and family homes but sometimes there’s a dish that contains milk or eggs. If your host doesn’t know what veganism is then you can offer to take your own food or if they’re willing educate them on what you can and can’t eat.
Personally I hate to be difficult so I’ll normally suggest something like just having lots of veg (check the potatoes are done in vegetable oil), hummus and bread. You can suggest taking your own food they can heat up. I’ve taken my own food along before then it takes any stress out of the meal. You could take a pie, nut roast or some mock meat. That way you know at least you’ll have something to enjoy. Don’t be surprised if others want to try what you take. Why not take a little extra just in case. You never know that next Christmas they may join you with a vegan option.
Been served a non-vegan dish?
If you do find your host has gone to a lot of effort and you end up with something non vegan on your plate then it’s up to you how you deal with it. In a pub I had the most amazing roast dinner and I could see the chef had gone to a lot of effort. But, there was cauliflower cheese and I knew it wasn’t vegan. When I asked the waiter to check he confirmed it wasn’t vegan and offered to take my plate away. I said it wasn’t a problem and ate everything apart from the cauliflower cheese.
A friend had the leftovers, so it wasn’t wasted. If it had been meat-based gravy all over my food I wouldn’t have eaten it. Just remember it was an accident and someone else will happily eat your food.
Work party? How to handle it smoothly
If you’re eating at a work function then speak with the person organising it. They will find out the vegan options available. If in doubt contact the venue directly. Giving them notice should ensure you’ll eat well and enjoy yourself. I know at my work function there are three courses which are all suitable. You could eat before you go to make sure you don’t end up hungry.
Being a considerate host
When I was vegetarian I would cook meat for guests. Now I’m vegan I won’t have meat in the house let alone cook it. I find it’s hypocritical that if someone believes strongly in something but makes allowances to suit others.
I’m yet to host a Christmas dinner but when I cook a Sunday roast I make sure that everyone is satisfied. By serving up lots of veg including peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, carrots, Brussel sprouts, roast parsnips, red cabbage, roast potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then there will be cauliflower cheese, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and something to replace the meat. You can buy a ready made roasting joint or I like to make puff pastry parcels with sausage and cranberry sauce. Your guests will be full before they even notice the meat is missing.
Reactions to your lifestyle choice
The presents are opened and the drink is flowing and then its almost certain to happen, “where do you get your protein?” There’s always someone that will make fun of your lifestyle or pick holes in how it’s extreme or not normal. This is when you have your opportunity to share your wisdom or just change the subject.
I used to instantly get angry and preachy and it would end up in an argument. I’d end up upset and the other person would be thinking all vegans are the same, pushing their lifestyle onto others. What’s more powerful is to stay calm and be honest about why you are vegan. When I get asked questions I try to remember I wasn’t always vegan and I once had similar views to them.
My personal answer is that I’d been extremely unhealthy and wanted to try a plant-based diet to see if my health improved. Not only did my health improve I lost excess weight, I had more energy and I feel better knowing I’m thriving and causing minimum damage to the environment and not contributing animal cruelty.
If the questions keep coming and I know they’re not listening I like to have a few facts about vegans having 50% less chance of heart disease and that processed meats (bacon and sausages) is a major cause of certain cancers.* Deep down we know we are doing our best and I think a lot of negativity from omnivores is their own guilt that they aren’t doing their best for the planet, health and animal welfare.
Christmas is a time everyone should come together and celebrate life. It’s also a time when there is so much unnecessary death and waste. Just remember to enjoy it and a little planning should ensure everything runs smoothly.
I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and an amazing new year!
*Source: World Heath Organisation website.
— Aaron is our vegan expert at Ecophiles. Send us your travel and green living queries to [email protected] the subject line: Ask the Expert.